The New York Times has weighed in on Larry Gagosian and Masayoshi Takayama’s new Upper East Side sushi joint, Kappo Masa, with critic Pete Wells bestowing a blistering zero star review on the opulent eatery.
Wells wastes no time establishing the tenor of his review, drawing a parallel between the gallery magnate “who has spent his career goosing the prices of contemporary art higher and higher” to the restaurateur “who has spent his career charging more for Japanese food than anyone else in the United States.” The critic only grows more indignant from there.
With a level of vitriol previously reserved for the likes of Guy Fieri’s widely-reviled Times Square eatery (infamously eviscerated by the same critic in 2012), Wells attacks “bland, watery cauliflower florets,” “overcooked foie gras” and shrimp noodles “in a greasy pond of way too much melted butter,” accusing the kitchen and waitstaff of carelessness, inattentiveness, and indifference.
When artnet News reported on the restaurant’s opening in October (see “Reserve Your Table Now! Gagosian’s Sushi Joint Opens Friday“), PR representatives assured us that “the price point will indeed be lower” than the average $450 per person bill at Takayama’s Time Warner Center flagship Masa (which received four stars from the Times in 2004). It would appear that the $200 for a party of two figure they cited was somewhat of a low estimate. As per Wells:
The cost of eating at Kappo Masa is so brutally, illogically, relentlessly high, and so out of proportion to any pleasure you may get, that large numbers start to seem like uninvited and poorly behaved guests at the table.
With entrees like fatty tuna maki rolls with caviar clocking in at $240, Wells found that “by the time I spotted something for less than $80, it struck me as a steal.” The opaque pricing system of the contemporary art world seems to have trickled over to Gagosian’s restaurant venture.
“It doesn’t seem possible that Mr. Gagosian and Mr. Takayama just made up these prices out of thin air, diabolically chortling like Batman villains, late one evening at Masa,” wrote Wells. “And yet if you are one of those people who suspects that Manhattan is being remade as a private playground for millionaires who either don’t mind spending hundreds of dollars for mediocrity or simply can’t tell the difference, Kappo Masa is not going to convince you that you’re wrong.” As ARTNews jadedly put it, “welcome to the art world, where it only takes a few seconds for everyone to start looking like the Riddler, eagerly holding bulging burlap sacks with money signs embroidered on them in each hand.”
Of course, other critics have been more forgiving of the astronomical price points, with Adam Platt of New York Magazine including the restaurant in his “Where to Eat 2015” roundup as an “elegantly appointed” place to drop “a giant wad of cash on a Japanese feast after a hard day trawling the galleries and boutiques along Madison Avenue.” Whether or not you think the splurge is worth it is up to you.
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